Category: Movies



My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones in Aurora, Colorado this weekend. The kind of fear, pain, and horror their loved ones experienced in that theater, and the kind of fear, pain, and horror they are experiencing now in the aftermath have no place in a civilized world.

The urge to do something, anything, to prevent such a thing from ever happening again is a powerful and worthy one.

Like all such situations, allowing ignorance and fear to guide us in our decision-making is a bad idea.

I’ve been reading and reading and reading the internet’s response to the incident in Aurora and I see a lot of ignorance and fear that lead to statements I disagree with and which are, often, just plain wrong. The people making these statements are probably acting in good faith. They just don’t know what they’re talking about.

One of the best responses to most of the anti-gun arguments being raised can be found here at Larry Correia’s blog. I can’t add much to his words on the philosophical and legal side of the house.

However, there’s one aspect to this whole discussion that has bugged me more than any other: the idea that a CCW license holder in that theater would have just made things worse.

Idea 1: “A victim with a gun in that theatre would just have killed even more people with their wild shooting in the smoke and the darkness and the confusion.”

Wrong, and here’s why. Anyone with any familiarity with guns (I’m putting CCW holders in this group) won’t shoot unless they have a clear target and a clear backfield. In this case, if they didn’t have one because of the darkness or the smoke, they simply would not have fired their weapon until they did. You only see crazy undisciplined shooting in movie firefights, which is where the people raising the objection get their information about the use of guns.

Oh, terrorists and gangbangers also practice the “spray and pray” shooting style. Neither group equates, at all, with legal CCW holders, though most of the people objecting to the idea of defending oneself seem to conflate them.

Thus, if it were so dark, smoky, and confusing that a CCW holder would not have fired, we have no change in the outcome, certainly not a worse one. Psycho shoots who he will shoot.

Let’s say, however, that CCW holder did have a good shot. This takes us to…

Idea 2: “The shooter was wearing head-to-toe body armor so your pistols would not have worked. Duh, you scary-gun-people!”

Wrong again. People who get their information about the use of guns from the movies seem to imagine that this head-to-toe body armor granted Holmes invulnerability, the ability to walk unconcerned through gun fire like Arnie as the terminator.

Those of us who have some experience can tell you that being hit with a bullet while in body armor is like getting hit with a hammer while wearing a T-shirt. Not something you can ignore. While pistol bullets  may not have penetrated his armor, they sure as hell would have gotten his attention, knocked him off balance, possibly even knocked him down. Those precious seconds while he was dealing with hammer blows would, unarguably, have saved lives.

Please, let’s not allow ignorance and fear to rule our decision-making about guns.

 

 

 

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TheAmazingSpider-ManI was not looking forward to this film when its marketing push first started. We already had one of these didn’t we? Good ones even.

And the actor playing Spider-Man looked like a goof. Especially his neck. I didn’t like the look of his neck. It was way too long.

Then as we got closer to the release of the movie and more story details crept out my ears perked up and it started sounding more interesting. As Lou Anders pointed out in a tweet there were details about this one that were ineffably right. Peter stayed in High School and had to deal with bullies and being a bully. He lived at home. He had a New York accent. His girlfriend was a blonde Gwen Stacy. He made his own web shooters. The list goes on. The film looked like it was staying far more true to the source material than others had.

Staying true to the source material is, of course, not a recipe for automatic success in a movie. It’s usually a recipe for disaster, books and comic books being so very different from film. But this one worked.

It worked well. I loved this movie. I will own it.

The acting was good. The action was good. The effects were good. It was all good.

Which makes me think about originality. How original can such a film be? Nothing about it was original. Not the story nor the characters nor the concept itself. It was a complete retread.

Yet I loved it. And I did not feel like I was watching something I had seen before.

It’s certainly possible to be unoriginal with something like this. It’s been done. Yet this one worked.

I think I’m starting to understand what Brandon Sanderson means when he says that originality for originality’s sake is vastly overrated.

Whatever you’re doing, do it well, and you’ll be fine.

 

I have voted on them. This is the first year I’ve managed to read a lot of the works up for the awards and thus felt good about judging the categories.

I’m not going to detail some of the categories. Some I will.

I put “Feed” by Mira Grant in the number one slot for Best Novel and I felt her vision, clarity, and sheer pizzazz carried it by a wide margin.  The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin came in second. Not much to say about the others. They were all good books.

I wanted to punch Connie Willis in the face when I got to the end of Blackout, or rather, the non-ending that tailed off that side of the book. But I understand that’s her publisher’s fault for splitting the book at the last minute rather than her own. That’s the rumor I heard anyway. I’ll go with it because punching old ladies in the face isn’t really an option.

For Best Novella I tapped “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky because it was awesome, sweeping, and painted so concretely for me that I feel like I was there. Again, all the entries were fine, fine stories, a few nearly as good as Red Flowers.

Best Novelette, went to “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone because it struck so close to home for me. I can’t truly occupy any viewpoint but my own and Eric sits right next door. The story spoke to me and he’s a brave man for bringing religion into it. Bravo, sir.

Short Story totted up in favor of “For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal  very closely followed by “Ponies” by Kij Johnson. Nail stands on its own, Ponies may take a bit of explaining. It’s one of those stories that could be brushed aside as merely shocking for shock’s sake if it wasn’t so horribly resonant with my own experience of the world. Let us not be the bully ponies in our own lives…

Big fan of Writing Excuses and Schlock Mercenary, no surprise there.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form I gave to Inception, followed by Toy Story 3. I put Scott Pilgrim at the bottom because I wasn’t equipped to appreciate it. I’ve never lived the shallow bachelor life, sometimes to my regret but not very often, and the characters all fell flat for me for, probably, that reason.

I voted on a couple other categories  but my reasons are shady and kind of blurry so we’ll leave those alone.

Best new Writer? I’m friends with two of the nominees so I’m not saying who took 1 and who took 2. One of them is liable to shoot me from more than 300 yards out and the other just might bury me alive in his backyard. I don’t need that kind of pressure.

Next stop Worldcon! Kind of…

The New Racism

Idris Elba as HeimdalFor starters, racism is real in today’s America. It exists. I’ve seen it.

Now I’ll go on to point out something I’m finding endlessly amusing.

Background is required. Several months ago, centering around the release of Avatar: The Last Air Bender, there was a great deal of discussion concerning the whitewashing of that film and whitewashing in general. Folks were angry that the producers of Avatar had cast white actors to play characters that most people would imagine as asian from the TV show and story. Great anger and acid accusations of racism were leveled at said producers. Much of the attention, I suspect, was paid because of M. Night Shyamalan’s involvement with the film.

I only heard about the uproar over Avatar because a friend of mine jumped in with both feet and shrieked in outrage with the best of them. Personally, I thought it was a molehill, but my apathy doesn’t, or shouldn’t, take away from the feelings of others on the matter.

Now enter the Thor film from Marvel Studios, and Idris Elba cast as Heimdall, a Norse deity. Again we have some folks getting a little upset over the casting. You see, Idris Elba is black, and most people would assume that Heimdall would be white, being Norse and all.

So, in one case we have whites being cast in roles that people imagine, reasonably, as asian and in the other we have a black man being cast in a role that people imagine, reasonably, as white. Same exact disconnect in both cases. The studios are clearly GETTING THE RACE WRONG when they’re choosing the actors to play these imaginary characters.

Cue the same uproar. The same bitter sarcasm. The same rage. … The crickets.

No one seems to care that a black man is playing the part of a norse god. I certainly don’t and I think the few people that do are racist, a bit nuts, and perhaps dangerously so.

Yet now we see, a little uncomfortably, that those who objected so loudly to the casting of Avatar share a slice of their root philosophy on race with these people.

You’re both racist. Deal with that and let’s all move on.

Bonus link: My friend Dan Wells has posted on this same topic over on his blog. As always he is erudite and fascinating.

Wil Wheaton, Chaos Elf

Wil Wheaton, Chaos ElfYou know, I’m always hovering on the brink of removing Wil Wheaton’s blog from my daily reading list, for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that he doesn’t post daily. Not even close. Is it really worth the time and click to check daily? Then he goes and posts stuff like his latest. Man, I like that guy.

Kick Ass


Kicked ass. Best movie I’ve seen in years. Jumped right to the top of my list of all time favorites, perhaps falling one position under Equilibrium, perhaps shouldering it to one side with a bit of truculence. We shall see how it bears more watchings. Already seen it three times, loved it more each and every one.

Determined to dress up for halloween this year as Hit Girl. My wife may not let me. But maybe I can get her into a purple wig? Would that be wrong?

Wow, such a wasted opportunity.

I went into this movie with high hopes that had been slightly dashed by Eric D. Snider’s review. I actually find slightly worse for wear high hopes to be a good recipe for movie watching. It makes the slide into a comfortable watch, instead of a great one, easy and painless. Unfortunately, Robin Hood just kept on sliding.

*Major spoilers ahoy*

Once I reconciled myself to a slightly unglamorous telling of the tale I was wowed by the production values, and unlike Snider I found the twists and turns to be logical and the machinations believable, barely.  And then they got all feminist on us. Not sure who thought it would be a good idea for Maid Marian to show up for the final battle in full armor leading a band of naked orphans from the woods. (barely mentioned so far) It wasn’t. Neither was it a good idea to have her lift her helm and declare across the battlefield “This is for Walter.” (her murdered father-in-law) before heading off to engage the bad guy in swordplay. Cheese stacked on ridiculous does not make a good sandwich.

And for those naked orphans who turned into knife fighting ninjas taking out armored infantry? I do not thank you.

It got a little sillier when we cut to several different takes in a row of Robin carrying the armored Maid Marian in his arms, deeper into the ocean. What’s out there besides retreating French? And any hope of a satisfying ending? Sigh.

So, I re-watched the first three quarters of this film last night.  I did this for two reasons.

First: It’s up for an Oscar and people are both bitching about it and howling its praises to the moon.  I wanted to see how it bore a second watching and if the good things I remembered were actually that good and so forth. I didn’t finish it.  Admittedly it was getting a little late, 11:30 or so but I was not, at all, sucked into the conflict. I knew how it ended and that was enough, I didn’t need to see it again. It wasn’t compelling a second time. Any conclusions I draw from this must, of course, be informed by how often I watch films more than once. It happens. I’ve seen quite a few films more than once and enjoyed them immensely: Soldier, Equilibrium, The Last Samurai, Gladiator, The Kingdom, the list goes on. Wasn’t happening with The Hurt Locker.

I suppose my perspective is a little different from most folks though by no means unique. I’ve been in combat, in the Middle East. They got quite a few things right in the film. But when they got things wrong, they really got them wrong and I didn’t care to see the ending again.

Which brings me to my Second reason for watching it twice. There’s a scene where an insurgent, who is undoubtedly the guy who shot and tried to blow up the heroes, is lying bloody on the ground under the care of a US Army medic. The medic tells his Colonel that the insurgent has a survivable wound if he can be picked up in 15 minutes.  The Colonel tells the medic in his crazy voice, “He didn’t make it.” The Colonel then repeats the phrase, with a significant nod, to another soldier, not the medic, standing nearby. Then he walks away and the camera follows him.

My friends have cast some doubt on whether or not a gunshot rings out as the Colonel walks away. I watched the film a second time to find out for sure. It most definitely does.

The film makers tried very very hard to give the impression that an American soldier, under orders from his Colonel shot and killed -murdered- an unarmed and wounded enemy combatant. And they did it casually, in front of quite a few other soldiers, a crowd even, not one of whom raised an objection.  To that I say, screw you mister film-maker. That is complete crap and it betrays your underlying motives for making the film and your opinions of the American fighting man, both of which are wrong and nasty if not downright evil.

Such acts have happened, I’ll not deny it. They don’t happen like that. They don’t happen easily. They don’t happen casually. They don’t happen without objection, especially in front of a medic or a crowd of soldiers. They don’t happen without charges of murder being brought and prosecuted.

None of which, of course, will or should have the slightest bearing on whether the film wins a Best Picture Oscar. An Oscar isn’t about political opinion or truth in film-making.  I don’t think it merits the award as a work of art, but that’s just me. Now, Jeremy Renner, he deserves an Oscar. I thought his performance was brilliant as were those of the rest of the cast, including the crazy Colonel.

It being hailed as the best Iraq war film ever made? Well, last I checked the field wasn’t very deep yet. I suspect holding that opinion may have more to do with The Hurt Locker bearing out, subtly and well, the opinions about war and soldiers the mainstream media has been inculcating into the population for the last 60 years.